Community Languages

Cambridge professor calls on Brits to learn Urdu and Polish to make migrants feel welcome. BRITONS should learn languages such as Polish, Punjabi and Urdu to make immigrant families feel more at home, according to a Cambridge University professor.

Many more English speakers should think of immigration as a ‘two-way street’ and be able to communicate in another language to aid integration and social cohesion, said academic Wendy Ayres-Bennett. The call flies in the face of two major reports into integration in British society which called on immigrants to learn English if they want to live in the UK.

And today it was described as a ‘retrograde step’.

Stewart Jackson, whose Peterborough constituency has suffered from the impact of high immigration, said: “It’s important that new migrants integrate into British society and support British values and that means - for their own self interest and the good of society - learning and speaking and reading English.

“This demand flies in the face of government policy and good community relations and would be a retrograde step .”

Prof Ayres-Bennett, head of French philology and linguistics at the University of Cambridge and leader of the MEITS project promoting multi-lingualism, said: “It is very important to think of integration as a two-way street.

“I would like to see more opportunities for British people to learn some of the community languages of the UK, such as Polish, Punjabi and Urdu, particularly in areas where there are high numbers of those speakers, so that there is some mutual effort in understanding the others’ language and culture. “Even a basic knowledge would be beneficial, which might be acquired formally or through engaging in joint community projects. “Considering the issue from the point of view of language learning, we rightly expect immigrants to learn English but, as a nation, we often don’t see the need ourselves to learn another language, and consider it to be something difficult and only for the intellectual elite.”

The Casey Review was a year-long study of integration and named language problems as one of the biggest causes of alienation, which leads to extremist views. And the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Integration called for compulsory English lessons for immigrants.

Dame Louise Casey was asked whether she agreed that integration was a “two-way street” – the idea that people who were already in the UK should adapt to newcomers. She said: “The process of immigrants is not a two-way street. I don’t think it’s a two-way street. I think that’s a sound-bite that people like to say.”

She went on to say that society made a mistake in making significant effort to accommodate people coming in from the outside and that the onus should mostly be on immigrants themselves to adapt to British culture.

Prof Ayres-Bennett said she supported recommendations for immigrants to learn English.

“Without English, immigrants are likely to develop exclusive social networks and alternative labour markets and for most people, language is at the very heart of their identity,” she added.

The largest ethnic minority groups in British schools are children of Pakistani origin: a community often accused of resisting assimilation and integration. Ann Cryer, the MP for Keighley blamed Imams for not speaking English. She should blame British schooling for not teaching Urdu/Arabic to Pakistani children, thus depriving them of understanding the Sermons in Arabic/Urdu. They are unable to enjoy the beauty of Urdu/Arabic literature and poetry. Imams are not part of the problem rather than the solutions. There is a proposal to teach Urdu as a compulsory language instead of French and German in British schools. The British Government is urged to remove the requirement in the National Curriculum that children between the ages of 11-14 study at least one European language.

In my opinion, native and Muslim children must learn Arabic and Urdu to make Muslims feel at home. The teaching of these languages will help native Brits to understand the needs and demands of the Muslim community and healthy community relations. It will help Muslim children to keep in touch with their cultural heritage and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.

I live in a very multi-cultural area but the races rarely interact. One road is entirely populated by the Asian community, with sari shops and Indian gold sold. Rarely do you see any other race walk down it. On the high street there are a number of polish shops sprouting up. When I hear people passing by talking, it is never the English language. Immigrants do not think it necessary to integrate. Polish stick with Polish, Indians stick with Indians. It will never change no matter what the government say.

The linguistic abilities of large number of Muslim children were being ignored because they had to learn another European language as well as mastering English. The Government must promote the status of Arabic/Urdu languages instead of languages of European origin. Tim Benson, head of Nelson primary school in Newham said that the “nationalistic curriculum failed to recognize the staggering array of linguistic abilities and competencies” in schools such as his, where the pupils spoke more than 40 languages. The linguistic dexterity of families speaking an array of languages was celebrated but the “awesome achievements” of children mastering three or four languages were barely recognised by the education system. Social and emotional education comes with your own language-literature and poetry. A DFE's document clearly states that children should be encouraged to maintain and develop their home languages.

A study shows that bilingualism is a positive benefit to cognitive development and bilingual teacher is a dire necessity and is a role model. The price of ignoring children’s bilingualism is educational failure and social exclusion. Bilingualism could be developed by bringing a partner from Pakistan. The kids will get better at both languages. One will speak English while the other will speak Urdu.

Muslim children need to learn Qur'anic Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural heritage and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. For this purpose, they need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers. There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be opted out as Muslim Academies. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

Stop treating foreigners like garbage and they will stop ruining your precious country. Why did you let them in in the first place if you didn't want them here? They left everything in their countries because of your promises. Are you so anxious to please that you can't say "no"? I would love to see you go to a foreign land where you don't have any friends, you don't even know anyone and you don't speak the language, and start from scratch. I would just LOVE to watch you do that. Let them integrate and stop segregating them. What I want is people being nice to each other. I don't care about race.